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iSeries shop talk with IBM executives

IBM executives Mark Shearer, Elaine Lennox and Jim Herring answer questions about the iSeries, from marketing to the broad view to the technical future of the server platform.

The Common conference in Miami Beach going on this week started with a bang on Sunday night, when leaders from the System i user group announced the start of iSociety, an online community meant to attract new users to the platform and bolster current users. Following the announcement, IBM executives took the stage for the "town meeting," which has become a ritual at Common conferences.
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Users went to the microphones and peppered executives with questions about the System i platform, such as how to better attract small companies and what the next version of i5/OS will look like.

Search400.com sat down with three of the executives, separately, on Monday to recreate some of those questions and add a few of our own.

Much of the talk around the System i recently has been around how to market it. How is IBM advancing the platform to make the marketing easier?

Jim Herring, System i director of products and business operations: The No. 1 word we use is relevance. If the product isn't relevant to the marketplace, it's not going to work. With several of the things we're doing -- IP telephony, PHP, making high availability and disaster recovery more cost-effective -- we're trying to make our system and our products more relevant.

How do you attract new users?

Mark Shearer, System i general manager: Every year we do attract a couple thousand or more new users to the platform, but they're all buying a software solution. New customers buy a System i as a part of a new business solution. IP telephony is a good example. Instead of having 20 separate Wintel servers, they can buy one System i tower and run their entire IP telephony on that.

IBM announced its complement to iSociety called The Truth. Could you explain it?

Elaine Lennox, System i marketing vice president: We have a very unique thing with System I -- passionate clients. Our challenge is how to acquire new clients from the Wintel generation. It's not that they wouldn't choose System i if they knew about it, or maybe they think of it as something that's old, that's legacy. The Truth gives people a chance to go there and see what people who use the platform think of it.

Speaking of the Wintel generation, one consultant last night said that many of his clients that are smaller businesses start off with a Wintel machine, and by the time they're big enough to afford a System i, they've already got 25 System x machines, and it's hard to move them over. How do you solve that problem?

Shearer: We're evaluating different ways to offer a lower cost entry System i so you can start small and grow. Some users have asked us to charge by user rather than by the flat price of the hardware. Other customers and business partners have asked us to consider allowing them to buy a Capacity Backup Edition on the Internet -- a virtual system, if you will. That rental model is an interesting idea for me. System i as a service is an interesting new paradigm idea.

One user last night was looking for a better roadmap to the next version of i5/OS, V5R5.

Herring: We're in development on that. The key areas for us are going to be around high-availability and disaster recovery compliance enhancements, around clustering. One of the big things is going to be around encryption. You'll see simplification of the user interface. Another key area for us will be database support in terms of DB2. We're not going to say when we're going to be shipping, but the time between versions is usually between 18 and 24 months (V5R4 was released in February 2006).

What about Power6?

Herring: Frequency will be roughly two times as it is today. The Power5 is 2.2 GHz. It will be 4 GHz to 5 GHz in the Power6 timeframe. One of the biggest concerns is about how much power they pull and what heat they generate. We're trying to minimize the use of power when it's unnecessary. And the next thing is reliability, availability and security. One of the things we did with Power5 that will be even better in the Power6 is being able to detect problems within the processor and recovering from them without it taking the system down.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer

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